Can best practices be replicated across different industries or even with a single one? This has come to light this past week with several news articles on my own organizations particular success in the education arena. Work places have been attempting to replicate “best practices” for decades. In my time in retail, at The Limited, we knocked off best looks and styles of top designers with a modicum of changes for a fraction of the cost and sale price to consumers. I’ll be careful to stop short of copyright infringement and I.P. concerns. Seems like a no brainer, but in most industries this is not the case.
In our society, individuals like to mimic successful people, taking the lead from pop, sports, and entertainment stars. The world of work is no different. If it works for your competitor or even for a player in a different industry, well lets copy it.
The problem of doing this successfully is that cultures and work styles vary widely from place to place. It starts with leadership, vision and values and cascades through every organization. Folks at Abercrombie might have trouble working at J.Crew. Same industry, similar demographics, but different tastes. So the clothes and aesthetics might be different, however all the behind the scenes functions might be similar. If Target or Wal-Mart have great supply chain functions, wouldn’t every retailer want to learn and replicate this?
I have taken issue in the past with trying to replicate best practices. Every time I read the Netflix culture manifesto, I get chills. What great concepts they have in place. They are successful and high performing. Lets be real, could you implement even half their practices without falling on your face? Want the best employees, pay the best. Let folks make decisions, don’t micromanage, minimize processes. Encourage folks to leave when they don’t fit or perform at a high level. Zappos goes one step further, they pay you to leave if your unhappy or not a good fit. They are doing great, surprised more organizations have not replicated this process.
I believe in theory most folks want to “have what she’s having”, however when the drink shows up are you willing to finish it? That’s the real question.
I think we already know the true answer.